In a city boasting four Michelin-star restaurants, food is a serious business in Edinburgh. And as breakfast is the most important meal of the day, you can expect to find a plethora of cafés and restaurants serving up lip-smacking full Scottish breakfasts, eggs benedict and pancakes smothered in maple syrup.
With so much to discover in Scotland’s capital, you’ll no doubt be up early and on the go exploring the city for most of the day. Or maybe you’re nursing a hangover from a night out sampling Scotch whisky (when in Rome). Either way, you’ll need to set yourself up with a hearty start to the day.
Thankfully, Edinburgh has an excellent array of cafés and restaurants serving up indulgent breakfast and weekend brunches, with haggis and smoked salmon providing Scottish twists on old classics. Of course, brunch doesn’t have to mean unhealthy, either. There has been a surge in vegan, vegetarian and clean-eating cafés serving up delicious, balanced breakfasts across the city. From greasy spoons to hipster hotspots, we’ve compiled a list of the 15 must-try brunch spots in the capital.
Bistro, Restaurant, Middle Eastern, British, $$$
It’s always a good sign when finding a seat at a restaurant is a challenge, and it’s best to reserve a table ahead of time at this Leith spot. An emphasis on local produce and a chintzy living-room feel are among the reasons this small neighbourhood café is such a hit. Ostara’s commitment to local suppliers isn’t just lip service: the tea it uses, for instance, is supplied by Edinburgh’s Pekoe Tea, and coffee comes from the Williams & Johnson roastery five minutes’ walk away. Ostara’s brunch menu also stands out for its unusual selections, including a hearty mushroom baked egg and Iraqi-style makhlama hash, a dish of spiced minced lamb, potatoes, crispy fried egg and flatbreads.
When it first opened in 1997 as Maxi’s, this once off-radar spot was the first coffee shop on Raeburn Place. Rechristened as Cowan and Sons in 2017, the family-owned café was lovingly restored thanks to a grant from Edinburgh heritage bosses, allowing the owners to breathe new life into its tired, historic shopfront. Crossing the threshold, you’ll find original features including distressed green and white tiles from its days as a fishmonger, which previously lay hidden behind plasterwork. The menu is somewhat restricted to the usual choices, but the butcher’s breakfast, with its meaty sausages, black pudding and smoked bacon, is finger-lickingly satisfying.
Nobles is something of a Leith institution. With many of its original Victorian features intact, such as stained-glass windows, reliefs depicting nautical scenes, dark-wood panelling and a long bar, this place wears its old-world charm on its sleeve. Under the management of Fay and Niall since 2010, the bar has built up a stellar reputation for its food and drink offerings, and for fiercely supporting Scotland’s best craft brewers and food producers. The lip-smacking brunch menu includes a decadent full Scottish with Stornoway black pudding and haggis. The choice of eggs benedict variations, including with smoked salmon and confit rabbit, is a real winner, too.
A new face in an area with an abundance of established restaurants, Salt Café in Morningside has more than earned its stripes. Even its decor, with heavy wooden tables, leather-clad booths and vivid green-tiled walls, leaves a lasting impression. Its brunch menu is varied if not extensive, but its selectiveness means that its plates are works of art. While the usual offenders like the full Scottish make appearances, there are also more eclectic choices on the menu, including spicy shakshuka, the house’s salt burger, filling macaroni cheese and creamy smoked haddock risotto. The snug at the back is ideal for a relaxed brunch reading the Sunday newspapers.
A discerning choice from the many options on Bruntsfield’s high street, Montpeliers has been a firm local favourite for over 20 years. Tables are always full with people having after-work drinks or dining couples, but it comes into its own for brunch, especially at the weekend. Breakfast is served all day from 9am to 5pm, with cocktails and bellinis only £5 when you order a main course off the brunch menu. If you’re feeling particularly ropey after enjoying Edinburgh’s nightlife, Montpelier’s bloody Scotsman (substituting vodka for whisky, amongst other things) will bring you back to life. Aside from the usual brunch dishes – which are all a knockout here – you might want to try the Mexican breakfast tortilla, or for a real taste of Scotland, the potato stack, complete with haggis, black pudding and a potato scone.
Paris meets Edinburgh at this charming little French café. Having been a fixture in Stockbridge for over a quarter of a century, Pâtisserie Florentin has had years to perfect its bicultural identity, doing so with great aplomb, whether it’s coffee and a pastry you’re after for a quick breakfast bite, or something more substantial like the moreish breakfast quiche or Belgian waffles. If the weather is fine, sitting outside on the street-side terrace is highly recommended. From your perch, you can watch life go by in one of Edinburgh’s prettiest areas, with its cobbled laneways and Georgian townhouses.
Batting way ahead of the curve, Hula opened its original branch 12 years ago before the clean-living fad caught on. The latest opening in Fountainbridge, ironically enough, occupies the place where a burger joint once was. With vegetarian, vegan and (some) meat options all having a place on Hula’s menu, it has something for everyone. With over 20 different smoothies and boosters on the menu, it isn’t surprising that the smell of citrus fruits hits you like a rogue wave as you cross the threshold. Proving that eating all your greens doesn’t need to feel like a hardship, the menu choices are delicious but health-conscious. Try the maca nana bowl or the açai bowl, both chock full of protein and vitamins and with a range of health benefits.
Taking its name from the colloquial Scottish word for a lunch box, Piecebox is the best weekend lunch spot in Polwarth, a quiet corner of Edinburgh away from the hubbub of the city centre. While it’s a firm local favourite for a leisurely weekend brunch, don’t let that stop you dropping by midweek. Breakfast is served all day, every day. To get there, stroll along the scenic Union Canal from Fountainbridge and work up an appetite to devour its Mexican eggs, a huevos rancheros-style house speciality served with tortillas, cheese, salsa and guacamole. Vegans and vegetarians are well catered for with the café’s own versions of the mighty full Scottish breakfast as well as vegan French toast and pancakes.
There’s a real buzz in Leith just now, with the diversity of its restaurants, from gastropub to Michelin-star restaurants, unrivalled elsewhere in Edinburgh. One of its most beloved pubs serving top-notch grub is the Roseleaf. With a brunch menu that is served from 10am until 4pm, it offers the perfect opportunity to enjoy a lazy Sunday afternoon brunch after a late rise. The cosy, family-run neighbourhood bar and café in the historic Shore area provides an array of wholesome brunch options, with vegetarians, vegans and coeliacs particularly well catered for.
It would be easy to miss Leo’s if you weren’t looking for it, as it’s tucked away in the basement of a Georgian townhouse. As the name suggests, it is all about the quality of the coffee at this New Town establishment, replete with reclaimed chairs crafted from old church pews. The house speciality is deliciously gooey poached eggs on toasted farmhouse bread with a selection of accompaniments, including bacon and black pudding, spinach and toasted seeds, avocado or smoked salmon. Or you may be more tempted by their croque-mon-scones, a twist on the French classic croque-monsieur made with cheese scones with melted cheddar and either Parma ham or tomato and spinach.
There are good reasons why Loudons is so decorated with awards. From its ethos of sourcing the best local produce to its attention to detail in everything from food presentation to decor, this independent Edinburgh brand devotes a lot of care into its work. For the full Loudons experience, pull up a chair at the original branch in Fountainbridge, the city’s financial district. Business types having meetings over coffee sit alongside brunching families in its light and airy open-plan dining space with floor-to-ceiling windows. If you try anything at Loudons, it has to be one of its bennys: 12 different eggs benedict-style breakfast muffins stacked with generous helpings of your chosen toppings.
A labour of love for husband-and-wife team Chris and Charlotte Thompson, The Pantry exploded onto Edinburgh’s culinary scene in 2012 and is still making waves. Brunch at this Stockbridge restaurant is a rite of passage for any Edinburgh visitor. Chris’s eggs benedict, for instance, captured the imagination of The Sunday Times, who wrote that it was ‘reason alone to come to Edinburgh’. With the bar set high, the menu offerings do not disappoint in their range and quality of ingredients. So unfold the paper, kick back and let your mouth water as you await the arrival of your order of homemade Belgian waffles; full Scottish or even French classic cassoulet.
A short walk from both the east gate entrance of Edinburgh’s Botanical Gardens and the Water of Leith walkway, Blue Bear Café is ideally located for a pre- or post-stroll brunch on a Sunday. Bring your appetite with you for the rip-roaring brunch served up here. Your eyes will be drawn straight to the classics list, where old favourites are given the Blue Bear treatment. Try the eggs Rebecca, for instance, with poached eggs served on breakfast muffins with black pudding and bacon or ham. Or take the recommendation of the house chef and fill up on French toast made with brioche served three ways. For lighter options, look no further than the crunchy homemade granola or fruit salad and yoghurt.
First opening its doors in 1968, Hendersons has always been at the forefront of vegetarian cuisine in Edinburgh. Right in the heart of the city centre, the ever-popular subterranean buffet-style restaurant is still producing tasty vegetarian food without compromising on flavour. Continuing in its pioneering ways, Hendersons became wholly vegan in 2015 – a first in the city. Proving healthy food isn’t bland and boring, the muesli and granola breakfast bowls are filling, wholesome and gluten-free, while the full house offers a more ethical take on the Scottish cooked breakfast with vegan sausages, vegan haggis and scrambled tofu.
With just a cursory glance at the menu, you’ll realise Grams is no ordinary brunch spot. With the mantra ‘eat better, not less’, it’s the discerning choice for those who would like to indulge in a decadent brunch but are concerned about healthy eating. Standout choices include a stack of Gram’s protein pancakes – made with whey protein and gluten-free oats and served Canadian-style or with fruit and yoghurt – which are guaranteed to sate even the hungriest appetite. You’re unlikely to find clean beanz – homemade baked beans served with feta and poached eggs – anywhere else in the city, either.